13 April 2008

Any way you slice it, it’s only rock and roll

I just saw Shine A Light. I'm glad I did—it's a engrossing look at a band on stage, more so because the Rolling Stones have been playing together for so long.

There are plenty of things that I could write about the Stones, their body of work, their history, the songs that they chose for the concert, the musicians they have on stage with them. But all those things have been written elsewhere, and probably a lot better than I could. I have never been a particular fan and I don't know much of their history or songs that were not big hits. There are a couple of things that I took away from the film, however.

Mick Jagger is a pro. He gives a great performance. But he does it like someone doing a job of work. Music is what he does. Keith Richards, on the other hand, seems to live in the music. It's what he is.

The other thing the film makes me think about is Petey's chicken. Petey was a neighbor of my grandparents, an old bachelor who had always lived alone. Whenever he cooked a chicken, he cut it up any old way. We would hold up an odd-shaped piece and ask him what the name of it was; he would make up funny names until we had run out of chicken.

Watching the concert, I noticed something that I had never picked up from hearing recordings. Ron Wood and Keith Richards cut up the guitar work like Petey cut up chicken: any way they feel like it. Most bands have the lead guitar guy and the rhythm guitar guy. These two don't slice it that way. Sometimes it seemed like they were taking turns from song to song, or from one end of the song to the other. What fascinated me most were the songs on which neither one of them seemed to be playing lead or rhythm. They would each play something cool and the effect of the two parts overlaid was lead and rhythm. I suppose there's a name for that and I bet they teach it in music school, but I don't think there is much of it in your run of the mill rock band.

It makes me want to listen to their work again with new ears.

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